LONDON: Emotional validation is a key reason why British social media users post and share, according to new research which shows that interactions with a post provoke feelings of engagement, happiness, and acceptance.

Polling more than 1,000 respondents aged 16 through 60+ years, a study from visual marketing platform Olapic showed that respondents regularly shared a range of content, with 33% posting third-party visual content at least once a week, with significant emotional motivations in mind.

As to why sharing is such a popular part of the social media experience, Jonathan Freeman, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London, who reviewed the research independently, observed that the role of feelings is fundamental.

"Engagement is a key motivation," he said, "but more often than not, sharing is strongly influenced by the positive feelings you get when someone responds to your posts: happy, engaged, loved and accepted".

When respondents were asked how they feel when people interact with their posts, 57% said they felt engaged with their friends, 35% were happy, and 32% felt accepted.

In terms of the content, self-expression is a key reason for posting on social media, with 44% reporting that they post to let others know how they feel or what they have been doing; 37% post because they believe others will find their thoughts interesting.

Olapic's co-founder Jose de Cabo noted the importance of building conversations on social media for brands. "When consumers share branded content on their page or feed, brands become associated with these carefully crafted representations."

If a brand is able to create content that users want, there is an opportunity to find an association with those feelings of self-confidence and importance among potential customers, he continued.

"People now trust images on social media more than brand advertising and are looking for more realistic content from seemingly unbiased sources to guide their purchasing and opinions of brands."

Olapic's research adds another layer to the growing body of research into the emotional aspect of social media. In May, the Royal Society of Public Health released a study that showed Instagram and Snapchat to be the most harmful platforms for users' mental health.

Data sourced from Olapic; additional content by WARC staff